Primroses and Cowslips

Almost any walk in the Chilterns in springtime takes you through a wonderful array of meadows, woodlands and ancient hedgerows where you can easily spot primroses and cowslips.

The primrose and cowslip are both members of the primula family. Primula veris, the cowslip, is more commonly found in meadows and alongside hedgerows, whereas primula vulgaris, the primrose, is more of a woodland flower.

Primroses in the Chilterns

Both primulas have similar shaped lime green leaves but are otherwise unmistakable. Cowslips have the graceful stem which raises the bright yellow flowers above surrounding meadow grasses. The more delicately coloured flowers of the primrose come into flower a little earlier and can generally be seen nestling on the woodland floor amongst last year’s leaf litter.

False Oxslip

More unusual is the false oxslip, a hybrid between the primrose and cowslip.

Unfortunately, the common cowslip has been in decline in the Chilterns as elsewhere due to modern intensive farming practices. It’s now quite hard to find whole fields covered with cowslips. One place where they can still really be appreciated in huge numbers from mid-April to early May is Hartslock which is carefully managed by the Wildlife Trust.

Field of Cowslips
Cowslips at Hartslock

Cowslips at Smalldean Bank
Cowslips at Smalldean Bank
Primroses in April amongst Coppiced Hazel